The Range 

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

Ah, headlines from the summer of '05. The second-longest streak of 100-plus days. A record number of illegal immigrants dropping dead while crossing the desert. The San Pedro River running dry in Cochise County. The Florida Fire consuming more 22,000 acres in the Santa Rita Mountains. Other blazes breaking out across town.

Welcome, citizens, to the Inferno!

A small taste of relief from the heat came Monday, July 18, in the form of a drenching storm with 45-mph wind gusts that knocked out power to 35,000 households, blew down trees in some parts of town and allowed local TV weathermen to finally put that storm-tracker gear to work. Among the victims of the storm: a 50-foot monster pine tree that toppled in our brother Bill's front yard, crushing a family car.

Local meteorologists say that as of press time, it was still too early to conclude whether the long-delayed summer monsoon season had officially started.

Unhappy Motoring

Along with record temps, we're close to record prices at the gas pumps, according to our pals at AAA Arizona. Last week's survey showed that gas prices jumped up an average of 6 cents statewide, putting the average statewide cost at $2.377 cents per regular unleaded gallon--less than a half-penny below this year's earlier high of $2.382. AAA spokeswoman Yvette Ortiz Lopez warned that prices will continue to climb over the summer.

Here in Tucson, the average cost per gallon was $2.32, up 4.5 cents over the previous week. Last year at this time, a gallon cost you $1.93.

AAA reminds us: "Motorists can use AAA's Fuel Price Finder at www.aaa.com/gasprices for the cheapest gasoline in their neighborhood."

The AAA crew also notes a disturbing rise in the number of calls from motorists who have locked their toddlers or pets in cars. Over the last 12 months, the auto club has responded to 905 such calls for help.

David Cowley, public affairs manager for AAA Arizona, says that number only accounts for people who call AAA, not those who call police, the fire department or friends.

"It is unconscionable to deliberately leave a baby or small child in a car for even a few seconds," Cowley said. "The minute you turn your back, the car door could close and lock, your child could turn off the ignition, hundreds of things could go wrong. You might think you're only going to be gone a minute, but what if something happens to you?"

The Range has a question, too: What the hell is wrong with you people? Reminds us of Miller's comment in Repo Man: "The more you drive, the stupider you get." (If you haven't seen Repo Man, don't miss it when it screens this weekend at the Loft at 10 p.m. Friday, July 22, and Saturday, July 23.)

Law and Order

Pima County prosecutors socked Duncan Dresner, the 14-year-old boy who was shot by police officers after he took a 40-ton earthmover for a joy ride last month, with a mix of 14 felony and misdemeanor counts, including seven counts of aggravated assault. Dresner remains paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the shooting.

In other police news, a TPD rookie officer in training, Eric Morales, shot and killed 19-year-old Matthew James Albrecht after Albrecht pulled a gun on Morales' training officer, Eric Coutts, during a traffic stop on North Oracle Road, according to the Tucson Police Department. A search of Albrecht's vehicle turned up a backpack containing ammunition, marijuana, narcotic paraphernalia and scales.

Pine Nuts

Escaping Phoenix's dreadful heat, state lawmakers drove to Flagstaff to crash a federal/state law-enforcement summit on the thorny topic of illegal immigration. The legislators backed down after being told by state troopers that they would not be arrested if they entered the conference.

The summit was called by Gov. Janet Napolitano, who was couldn't attend because she was too busy traveling across Europe.

Former state Sen. John Greene, who has announced plans to challenge Napolitano next year, released a statement hammering Napolitano for trying to tackle the problem of illegal immigration, arguing that she had earlier failed to solve the problem of illegal immigration, so she should just give up.

"It is simply mind boggling that after vetoing a bill that would allow local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws and play a meaningful role in addressing our serious border problems, the incumbent governor would now try to take credit for the very plan she vetoed," said Greene.

In other gubernatorial news: The unknown Keith DeGreen announced he was withdrawing from his hopeless plan to challenge Napolitano next year, suggesting that Republicans are having trouble drawing even fourth-rate candidates.

More by Jim Nintzel


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